Skip to content | Change text size

print version

Monash University

Monash University Handbook 2011 Undergraduate - Area of Study

All areas of study information should be read in conjunction with the relevant course entry in the Handbook. The units listed for this area of study relate only to the 'Requirements' outlined in the Faculty of Science component of any bachelors double degrees.

Managing facultyFaculty of Science
Offered bySchool of Mathematical Sciences
School of Physics
Course coordinatorProfessor Paul Cally (School of Mathematical Sciences), Dr Michael Brown (School of Physics)


Studies in astronomy and astrophysics are available to students commencing at level one. The first-level units provide a descriptive overview of the universe, our place in it, and prospects for the developments of extra-terrestrial life. These units are particularly recommended for those interested in the philosophy or history of science, understanding the necessary precursors to the development of life, or amateur astronomy.

It is also possible for students to commence their astrophysics studies at second or third level, as the first and second-level ASP units are not prerequisites for entry into the following levels. The second-level astronomy units are aimed at students who have completed at least first-level physics and mathematics, and their purpose is to introduce astronomy from a more practical and quantitative perspective. They will therefore provide a useful contextual background to prospective physicists in general and to future astronomers and astrophysicists in particular.

Astrophysics is the application of known physical laws to the study of the objects that make up the universe - planets and stars, comets, pulsars and quasars, black holes and galaxies. The third and fourth-level astrophysics units will provide education in modern astrophysics, and are primarily aimed at those intending a professional career in astronomy or astrophysics. However, because modern astrophysics draws heavily on physics, mathematics, computation and numerical analysis, these units also provide excellent training in modern science and problem solving.

The astronomy and astrophysics program is presented jointly by the School of Mathematical Sciences and the School of Physics.


On completion of the major sequence in astrophysics students will:

  • have achieved a broad understanding of the theories and observations of the physical universe
  • have achieved an understanding of how theories of the physical universe are constructed from basic physical principles using mathematical analysis and numerical modelling
  • have acquired an insight into some broad areas of astrophysics such as the solar system, stars, planets, galaxies, black holes and cosmology
  • have learned a number of higher level analytical and numerical methods and their applications in the constructions of models of stars, planets, galaxies, black holes and cosmology
  • have developed problem solving and critical thinking skills
  • have developed skills in using telescopes and other instruments used in astronomy
  • have developed skills in the effective use of mathematical computer software and numerical modelling techniques
  • have developed, in the context of the discipline, the graduate attributes of effective communication, information and communication literacy, inquiry and critical thinking, and ethical, social and international understanding.
  • be prepared for a range of further learning and training in astrophysics including honours studies in astrophysics
  • be suitable for employment, both national and international, in a range of areas requiring analytical and quantitative skills.


Level one

  • ASP1010 Earth to cosmos - introductory astronomy
  • ASP1022 Life and the universe

Level two

Level three

Sequence requirements

Astronomy and astrophysics

Minor sequence in astronomy and astrophysics (24 points)

The level two units have the additional prerequisites of six points of level-one physics and MTH1030 (Techniques for modelling) or equivalent.


Major sequence in astrophysics (48 points)

The core unit ASP2062 has the additional prerequisite of six points of level-one physics, and ASP3012 has the additional prerequisite of MTH2032 (Differential equations with modelling). Level-two physics units are highly recommended.

The unit ASP3222 has additional prerequisites of PHS2011 (Physics: Quantum concepts and technologies) and PHS2022 (Physics for communications and measurement), and the unit ASP3231 has prerequisites of ASP2011 or PHS2011 or PHS2022.

Requirements for honours in astrophysics

  • 24 points of level-three units, of which normally 18 points are astrophysics units.

Additional information

Level one

The two first-level astronomy units ASP1010 and ASP1022 are descriptive and introductory and are accessible to students with no prerequisites.

Students considering a minor sequence in astronomy should complete at least six points of first-year physics and MTH1030 or equivalent.

Students considering taking a major sequence in astrophysics should complete PHS1011 and PHS1022 and at least 12 points of mathematics units at level one, normally MTH1020 (Analysis of change) and MTH1030 or equivalent. Students may also find it advantageous to include some chemistry, computer science or geosciences units, depending on their particular interests.

Level two

The unit ASP2011 is taught by the School of Physics, which operates its own observatories at Mount Burnett and at the Clayton campus, while ASP2062 is taught by the School of Mathematical Sciences. The units cover both theoretical and observational astronomy. ASP2062 is a core unit in the astrophysics major and should be taken at level three if not taken at level two. Students intending to take 24 points of astrophysics at level three must have completed at least 12 points of mathematics and at least six points of physics at level two. The mathematics units completed must include MTH2010 and MTH2032; MTH2051 or MTH3051 is also strongly recommended. The minimum physics requirement is PHS2011, which is a modern physics unit built around quantum physics taught in the context of atomic, molecular and solid state physics. However, it is preferable for students to take 12 points of physics comprising PHS2011 and PHS2022, especially if they are more interested in the observational or instrumental aspects of astrophysics. This is because this combination of units provides a good grounding in quantum concepts, electronics principles and optics, all of which are important in astronomy and astrophysics.

Level three

It is expected that students taking astrophysics at level three will combine the sequence primarily with either 24 points of mathematics (for those intending to follow theoretical astrophysics) or with 24 points of physics units (for those intending to follow a more observational or instrumentational approach) at level three. In either case, there is a core of 12 points at level three composed of the two units ASP3012 and ASP3051. In addition, students must complete at least one of ASP3222, ASP3231 and MTH3360. Students who completed ASP2062 at level two would normally take MTH3360 and ASP3231. Students who still have to complete ASP2062 at level three would normally choose between MTH3360 (if inclined more to the theoretical) and ASP3231 (if inclined more to the observational). ASP3222 is for students who are not taking physics at level three and are inclined towards theoretical astrophysics.

Students intending to study theoretical astrophysics at honours level in the School of Mathematical Sciences are advised to include MTH3360 at level three and to gain some experience with numerical computation.

Students at third-year level and wishing to take astrophysics but who lack the appropriate physics prerequisites may be able to enrol in some of the ASP core units as part of their mathematics sequence (see the level three entry under 'mathematics' in the Science areas of study section of the Handbook), however, they should discuss this with the astrophysics coordinator at the earliest opportunity.


In addition to the requirements listed above, students must meet the entry requirements for the Science honours program relevant to their course of enrolment. See the entries for:

  • 3520 Bachelor of Science Advanced with Honours
  • 0051 Honours degree of Bachelor of Science
  • 2188 Honours degree of Bachelor of Science (Science Scholar Program)

Full details regarding the course structure for honours in this area of study are outlined in course 0051 Honours degree of Bachelor of Science.

Relevant Courses

Single degrees

  • 0050 Bachelor of Science
  • 3520 Bachelor of Science Advanced with Honours
  • 1120 Bachelor of Science (Science Scholar Program)

Double degrees

  • 0530 Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science
  • 3537 Bachelor of Arts (Global) and Bachelor of Science
  • 1469 Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Science
  • 3517 Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Computer Science
  • 3711 Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Education
  • 1633 Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Education
  • 3278 Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering and Bachelor of Science
  • 4609 Bachelor of Environmental Engineering and Bachelor of Science
  • 3282 Bachelor of Mechatronics Engineering and Bachelor of Science
  • 0085 Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Engineering
  • 0086 Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Laws

Honours degrees

  • 0051 Honours degree of Bachelor of Science
  • 2188 Honours degree of Bachelor of Science (Science Scholar Program)